The Academy of Fine Arts (ASP) in Krakow is the oldest university of the arts in Poland.
It was established under Statutes of the Jagiellonian University in October 1818. Initially, it functioned as an institute called the Academy of Fine Arts within the Literature Department at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Jagiellonian University. In 1826, ASP was removed from under a supervision of the Dean of the Literature Department and transferred under a direct supervision of the Rector of the Jagiellonian University. Soon, first directors, selected from amongst ASP professors, stood at the Academy's helm: first Józef Peszka, followed by Józef Brodowski, an initiator of the concept of creating the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, which was crucial for establishing the academy. Apart from Professors Peszka and Brodowski, who taught painting and drawing, in 1818–1833 the most important role at the Academy was played by sculptors, Józef Riedlinger, and his successor Józef Schmelzer.
In 1833, the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow was separated from the Jagiellonian University and lost its academic status. As School of Drawing and Painting it was merged with the Technical Institute, where it functioned for next forty years. During that period, the most important professors were two painters, Wojciech Korneli Stattler and Władysław Łuszczkiewicz. Apart from them, other painters and teachers worth mentioning include Jan Nepomucen Głowacki, Jan Nepomucen Bizański, Aleksander Płonczyński, Leon Dembowski or Józef Dębski - first professor of graphic arts at the former and the future Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow.
In 1873, the School of Drawing and Painting was separated from the Technical Institute and became an independent School of Fine Arts (SSP), with Jan Matejko as its director. Matejko, who was at the head of SSP for twenty years, pushed the academy in the new direction and is remembered as one of the most prominent persons in the history of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. One of his achievements was to initiate construction of the Academy building at a location which nowadays bears a name of Jan Matejko square. The building was erected in 1879 to the design of Maciej Moraczewski.
Another breakthrough date in the history of the Academy of Fine Arts is the year of 1895, when Julian Fałat became the director of the School of Fine Arts. Fałat's greatest achievement was to transform the School of Fine Arts into the Academy of Fine Arts in 1900. With a change of its name the school also regained its academic status, lost in 1833. Fałat appointed the most renowned artists of the modernist Young Poland trend as ASP professors, including painters Jacek Malczewski, Leon Wyczółkowski, Jan Stanisławski, Teodor Axentowicz, Stanisław Wyspiański and Józef Mehoffer, and a sculptor Konstanty Laszczka. In 1905, Julian Fałat became the first Rector of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow.
After Julian Fałat resigned from the position of Rector in 1909, the highest office at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow was held by: Wyczółkowski, Axentowicz, Laszczka, Malczewski and, during the First World War, Mehoffer. During the war, Austrians requisitioned the main part of the ASP building for military purposes, however, they did not close the Academy itself.
In the interwar years, a position of ASP Rector was held by such artists as: Wojciech Weiss, Józef Gałęzowski, Adolf Szyszko-Bohusz or Fryderyk Pautsch. At the beginning of the 1920s', women were admitted as the Academy students. Of initiatives undertook in the interwar period, some have been abandoned, but other have continued to influence the Academy life to this day. The Parisian Branch of the Academy of Fine Arts where students were tutored by Józef Pankiewicz does not exist anymore. However, the ASP Outdoor Centre at Harenda in Zakopane still functions and serves professors and students of ASP in Krakow.
When the Second World War broke out, Germans disbanded the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, and replaced it with Kunstgewerbeschule, a higher school of applied arts, which functioned until March 1943. Later the occupants organised an orphanage for German children and army barracks in the building.
The end of the Second World War brought about significant changes in functioning of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. The Academy received new buildings (starting with buildings at Smoleńsk and Humberta streets) and was divided into faculties. With a merge with the University of Fine Arts in 1950, the Academy opened up to new directions in education. In 1950–1956 the Academy operated under a name of Academy of Plastic Arts. In 1979 the Academy was given a name of Jan Matejko. Since 1945, a position of Rector was held by: Eugeniusz Eibisch, Zbigniew Pronaszko, Zygmunt Radnicki, Konrad Srzednicki, Mieczysław Wejman, Czesław Rzepiński, Marian Konieczny, Włodzimierz Kunz, Jan Szancenbach, Stanisław Rodziński, Jan Pamuła, Adam Wsiołkowski and the current Rector Stanisław Tabisz.
The Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow continues to develop in terms of its structure, staff, and directions and methods of studies. It remains faithful to its own splendid tradition, and at the same time, it is open to challenges and needs of modern days. Nowadays, the Academy provides education at seven faculties: Faculty of Painting, Faculty of Sculpture, Faculty of Graphic Arts, Faculty of Interior Design, Faculty of Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art, Faculty of Industrial Design and Faculty of Intermedia.